Insuring a self-build house

If you're inspired to design your own home, make sure your project is protected

Britain’s housing shortage is well-documented. Taking inspiration from property programmes like Grand Designs, an increasing number of people are taking matters into their own hands in the search for the perfect home.

Insuring your future home is a consideration that every self-builder should take into account when embarking on this particular path, and it starts before ground has even been broken. Read on if you’re starting from scratch, extensively remodelling an existing property, or converting a building for residential use.

Insuring during the building process

Accidents can happen at any time, so some specialist insurers offer policies for the duration of the building work.

Storm damage, theft and injuries to contractors can all throw your timeline out – leaving you considerably out of pocket. Schedules can slip even without disaster striking, which is why most self-build policies run for longer than the typical 12 months, and can be extended bit-by-bit if your deadline slips.

Any good self-build insurance policy will insure the house under construction, plus any temporary structures like site offices and caravans, against all of the usual things insured by a buildings insurance policy. Make sure you’re covered for theft of materials and tools; your chosen insurer may stipulate on the diligent use of on-site security, lockable storage and the like.

You will also need liability insurance in the event of an injury or worse – and probably two types. Public liability insurance protects you against the cost of compensating someone (even thieves and trespassers) who injure themselves while visiting the site. It’s worth considering putting this kind of insurance in place if you own any piece of land from the moment you buy it, regardless of whether or not you’re planning to build on it.

Employer’s liability insurance is often part of a specialist self-build policy and provides compensation for any workers who are injured in the completion of their duties while working for you. This covers against things like trips and falls, as well as things like collapsing scaffolding.

Admiral doesn’t offer this kind of insurance, so it’s worth speaking to your builder to see if they have any suggestions.

Insuring a new-build home

Once your home is complete, obtaining insurance should be relatively straightforward. You won’t need to declare that it is a self-build, and will be asked all of the usual questions when obtaining a quotation.

One question surrounds non-standard construction. While most self-builders will turn to bricks and mortar when physically constructing their home, others are getting more creative: using pre-fabricated panels, hay bales or even historic methods such as wattle and daub to keep costs and their environmental impact under control.

If you’re looking to build a home with non-standard construction, call us to discuss your plans in advance to learn whether or not it will be insurable.

Your mortgage provider, assuming you are borrowing money, will also likely insist that any property you build is covered by some kind of warranty – just like the one you get when you buy a new car or piece of electronic equipment.

You can buy these separately, and the warranty provider will take responsibility for repairing the property if problems arise – saving you the hassle of chasing up builders and contractors.

Even if you’re borrowing no money, you may find it hard to sell on a self-build property within 10 years of construction if it’s not covered by a warranty.

You may also need to look into additional insurance (called JCT Clause 21.2.1 cover) if your building project affects surrounding properties by, for instance, causing subsidence or heave. Creating huge problems like these for your new neighbours is the worst possible way to begin a new relationship with them, so your engineer will be able to tell you if he or she thinks this could be a problem.

Things to think about while self-building a home

While building, keep a close eye on what you’re spending. This will help us establish the cost of rebuilding your home, and the cost of all fixtures and fittings. Our guide to calculating rebuilding costs may prove helpful too.

You may want to consider Admiral Platinum home insurance if you’re installing matching sets (like bathroom suites or sofas, for instance). Admiral Platinum policies have a special matching sets clause; we’ll replace the entire set if the damaged piece comes from a suite that is no longer on sale.

Self-building for cheaper home insurance

If you’re still at the planning stage, there’s things you can do to ensure that your home can be insured – and is affordable to insure – once it’s in move-in condition.

  • Build at least 10m from any trees, and especially established, tall-growing varieties
  • Do not build on ground with a history of flooding, or poor drainage
  • Build at least 400m from the nearest water course (river, stream, brook or coastline)
  • Ensure the foundations are strong enough to take the weight of any future extension
  • Add an intruder alarm
  • Eschew flat or thatched roofs.

It’s also worth stressing that new-build properties are not offered the same Flood Re protections as older properties, which can make insuring your self-build home difficult if your land is in an area with known flooding.